Sustainable Design Goals - Alessandro Kerr

Sustainable Design Goals

When I think about sustainability, I typically think about it across three distinct areas: environmental, social, and economic. These are more commonly known as the three pillars of sustainability. Ideally, the optimal blend of all three categories will be incorporated in a building design. However, with different goals and targets for each project, often at least one of the three pillars is sacrificed to complete the project to the owner’s standards.

Environmental Sustainability

This is the most common realm that people think about when they hear the word sustainability. This can include aspects like choosing sustainable materials, minimizing energy use, being mindful of water consumption, etc. However, I think most people do not consider the entire life-cycle of the building, which is arguably the most important part of environmental sustainability. If a building can be re-used rather than demolished/recycled, it has immense life-cycle benefits. One building that I think does a good job of environmental sustainability is the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, at the University of British Columbia in Canada. This building achieved LEED Platinum, and included design features like passive design, using waste-heat, water recycling, and natural lighting. It was the first LEED Platinum building in Canada and jumpstarted a trend, and I plan to use concepts from this building in my final project. I think this building is of particular motivation because it is also a building that completes research on sustainability. Similar to our exhibition center, this building practices what it teaches and I think it is an inspiring concept.

Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability, University of British Columbia


Social Sustainability

Being mindful of a building’s social sustainability is key in ensuring its usability. Considering aspects like the thermal flows of the building ensure it is a space that is comfortable and can be used for the intended purpose. Similarly, adequate lighting can promote building comfort on a day-by-day basis. In the event of an accident, is there good emergency access? Questions like these are important in determining if a building is socially sustainable. As mentioned in the lecture, I think the Living Building certification is a good way to measure the social sustainability of a building. One example of social sustainability to me took place at my undergraduate university, the University of Windsor. A green wall was placed in the Center for Engineering Innovation at the University of Windsor to help with the air quality and wellness in the building.

Center for Engineering Innovation, University of Windsor


Economic Sustainability

At the end of the day, almost every project is constrained by cost in some way. Often, this means that all the sustainability initiatives are reliant on the economic sustainability of the project. Tradeoffs must be made to ensure the project can be completed, and often environmental sustainability is compromised in order to ensure social and economic sustainability. I think the importance of our final project is to design a space that can represent all aspects of sustainability and I am looking forward to completing it. Buildings are only sustainable when all three pillars are considered.